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    • Join Date: Jul 2009
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    #1

    Use of the colon

    I recently answered an exam question incorrectly (here in the U.S.) and I think it may be due to differences between English and American usage.

    My understanding is that following English usage, a colon precedes a list of items and that a series of items, separated by commas, would form a list. Here are two examples:

    1. I like: apples, oranges, plums and bananas.

    2. I eat various types of fruit: apples, oranges, plums and bananas.

    Are these correct? Should there be a semi-colon in example 2?

    Thank you

    Thoughtful Skeptic

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    #2

    Re: Use of the colon

    I see no reason for the colon in the first as separating the list would leave the verb like incomplete. In the second it's fine to me; the first half introduces the list that comes in the second. (British English speaker)

  1. opa6x57's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Use of the colon

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    I see no reason for the colon in the first as separating the list would leave the verb like incomplete. In the second it's fine to me; the first half introduces the list that comes in the second. (British English speaker)
    I'm an American English speaker - 52 years.

    I agree with Tdol - completely.

    In the first example, the colon makes the sentence incomplete (a fragment.)

    There is no need for a semicolon in either list.

    One online reference I read said you COULD use semicolons instead of commas in the list of things AFTER a colon, but went on to say that this is usually done ONLY when the items in the list contains commas.
    "The following books will be covered on the midterm: the Odyssey, through book 12; Ovid's Metamorphoses, except for the passages on last week's quiz; and the selections from Chaucer." The semicolon makes it clear that there are three items, whereas using commas to separate them could produce confusion.
    Lynch, Guide to Grammar and Style S


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    #4

    Smile Re: Use of the colon

    Dear Tdol and Opa6x37,

    Thank you both for your fast responses. I think that clears up my uncertainty. I used a colon as in the second example, so perhaps I did not get the exam question wrong after all.

    Regards,

    Thoughtful Skeptic

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